[Homeroast] Quest M3 first roasts - the novel

Jeff Bensen jbensen-0007 at xemaps.com
Sat Jan 29 18:43:26 CST 2011

I apologize up front for the length of this post. I did not intend to write a novel, it just turned out that way.

Well after nearly 2 weeks of work, travel and other obligations I finally had time to take my shiny new Quest M3 for a test drive. I have a stash of past-crop beans which I've been saving for just this occasion. I fired up the space heater last night in my workshop for a couple of hours to bring the ambient up to around 70 degrees, then sometime after midnight I sat down to roast.

I decided to use Jim Schulman's method for these first roasts. Details can be found in the following link:

I am using the stock analog thermometer for BT (Bean Temperature). I have a Type-K thermocouple meter (non-logging) with a 1/8" x 6" stainless steel probe, placed through the upper right screw hole used to attach the bean drop chute, running to about the midpoint of the drum for the ET (Environment Temperature).

My first roast was designed to just get a feel for the machine. I preheated using 8 Amps and 4 Fan. I dropped to 7 A when the ET read 260c, since I was afraid of going too hot scorching the beans. I used 175 grams of Indian Pearl mountain MNEB Nuggets, dropping in at 205c BT and 286c ET. I then opened the bean insertion door, reduced to 5 Amps and turned off the fan. At around 3:45 and 140c BT I saw visible steam escaping. At 6:00 and 152c BT the aroma changed to dry hay, I closed the bean insertion door, cranked the fan to max and 9 Amps, and began the 'run' to 1C. The ramp progressed much slower than I expected, and I surmised that I did not have enough thermal inertia. I tried cutting the fan back to 6 at 8:15 to see if that would help. It did not, and at 10:15 and 169c BT I returned the fan to max. At 13:15 I had reached 190c BT, so I went to 8 amps and 6 fan. 1C started at 195c BT.

Wow, I could actually hear 1C very well! After 5+ years roasting in a modified iRoast1, this was a pleasant change.

The rest of this first roast progressed very slowly, and I reached a rolling 2C at 19:30, which was also clearly audible. I let the roast go completely through 2C, then dumped the beans at 21:30 and 225c BT.

I never roast this dark, this was just an experiment. Wow, there is a lot of smoke produced at this roast level! Even though I had an exhaust fan in one window and the other 2 cracked open, I could hardly breathe. I opened the door for a few minutes as the smoke poured out of my shop.

I'm not going to detail the other roasts, but will outline them instead to illustrate what I learned.

My next roast used only 150g of beans (a Kenya) with a goal of City+, and I decided not to worry so much about a high ET reading. Unfortunately I went to 6 Amps and 4.7 fan at 150c BT, when instead I should have maxed them out for the ramp to 1C. I only realized this 3 minutes later, and went to 9 Amps and max fan at that point. The roast began to pick up speed about 2 minutes later, and I hit 1C at 11:30, dropping the beans at City+ at 13:30. The reaction time of this roaster is slower than what I am used to, but with a smaller load I was somewhat able to correct my oops.

My third roast was also 150 grams and a goal of City+, this time using Brazil Daterra Farms Yellow Bourbon. I had no brain farts this time, cut the heat at 190c BT to 6 Amps and 4.7 fan, and I hit 1C in 9:30, dropping the roast at 12:00. My ET maxed out at 303c (577f), but there was no evidence of tipping. Perhaps my fear of ruining the ET that high are unfounded in this roaster. I also used the trier several times near the end of the roast (last 40 seconds), dropping the beans when I saw the seams begin to open up and the flat side of the beans begin to bulge.

My fourth roast was 150 grams of the Yellow Bourbon again, but this time I shot for Full City. I went to 7 Amps and 5.3 fan at 190c BT. The trier again came in handy at the end, looking for evidence of the edges of the bean beginning to be less sharp (softer). I dumped at 12:00 at 223c BT and it appeared to be a Full city roast (using Tom's pictorial guide as a reference).

I called it a night, but retuned to the shop this afternoon when the weather warmed up for another round.

I ran two more roasts (175 grams Puro Sucro to Vienna, and 200 grams of Guatemalan Antigua to City+). I felt I was beginning to get a handle on the Quest using Jim Schulman's profile, so I got bold and broke out one of my A-list beans: SM's Ethiopia Harar Organic Dry Process Biftu Genema.

I did two back to back roasts of 150 grams, one to City+ and the other to Full City+. I really liked a melange of these two roast levels when I did them in my iRoast. I started out a little too cool on the first roast, and the City+ took 15 minutes. The Quest was a little hotter for next roast, and I hit Full City+ (3 or 4 pops of 2C) in 12 minutes. I will begin to sample this every day, starting tomorrow, to see how it develops.

I plan on doing several roast sessions in the near future using other roast profiles (Steve Sakoman's for example).

My overall impression is very favorable. I am blown away by the ability to clearly hear the cracks and smell the beans with this machine. I love being able to pull a sample with the trier to make crucial end of roast decisions. I feel, however, like I am just learning how to roast again even though I have 7 years under my belt. I was very comfortable with my modified and instrumented iRoast1, and could get good to great roasts out of it almost without thinking. I believe the Quest will allow me to take my roasting skills to a higher level, but it may take me some time to get there.

I see the value in logging these roasts. I did my first couple of roasts while writing down temperatures every 30 seconds, and it was almost too much to keep up with. Starting with roast #4 I went to 1 minute intervals and this gave me a little time to think about what I was doing. I have some hardware on order to allow me to record the roasts and, therefore, just focus on the roast process itself while it is going on.

-- Jeff Bensen
   Palm Bay, FL

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